Friday, August 24, 2007


I found the hole where my training motivation has been draining away. It's social anxiety - stage fright, really. It helps to sternly tell myself that I'm not there to make friends or impress anyone, I'm only there to learn swordsmanship.

Un-led class

I switched my salle duty from Friday to Thursday for a few weeks and what do you know - my first day of "thank goodness Guy always leads classes on Thursdays" became my first day of leading a class in ages.

There were two basic-level students and two free scholars, so I chose a selection of very basic techniques in footwork and dagger, knowing that the more advanced would find some aspect to occupy them and that the less advanced would benefit from the repetition. However, towards the end of dagger play and again at the end of the class I figured that the free scholars should get on to something interesting and gave the class problems to work on - find your favourite takedown when faced with a sotto attack, for example. It always delights me to see advanced students plunge into tasks like that, displaying good technique and a good training attitude.

I was a bit lost for words again for describing technique, but getting better. And I really should get a grip on myself and just properly lead a proper class once. That should help me get over being so apologetic all the time! I can't get into my "I'm the class leader here, I make the decisions" mind frame but instead, I waffle, I ask questions, I make disparaging remarks about my own technique (not that it doesn't deserve it...), and generally make it known through my demeanour that I'm occupying the space in front of the school altar through a historical accident rather than current competence.

Comments, please!

Anybody reading this blog please comment if you find anything to correct in my descriptions of technique etc. If I'm taking with my mouth full of foot, I really, really want to be corrected. I just received an e-mail from Joeli Takala (I hope he doesn't mind being named :) saying he hesitated to post a comment saying I made mistakes in the Nine Masters of Dagger post. No! This is a public blog, and hence also an unofficial window into SESH and our training. We don't want mistakes here! I will not be offended to be called out on factual errors. Now, I might argue with you about it (publicly, in the comments, so if you can't take that, tough), I might check with someone more knowledgeable (preferably Guy), or I might dismiss your comment as irrelevant (depending on what the post is actually about), but I will not be offended.

Especially when the one of the purposes of this blog is to invite comments and feedback... :D


Reading pictures

I just noticed something about the way I'm using the Getty Fiore (the facsimile of Fior di Battaglia in Malipiero's book, that is): I'm looking at the pictures fairly systematically, looking for a specific item of information in a specific place.

For example, to find out whether each technique (dagger, in this instance) happens on the outside or on the inside, I look at the feet and legs; thus far, I've been able to find a clear indication there in every single picture, because the illustrator has been careful to cross the participants' feet in a way that puts one person's leg behind one of the other participant's legs. This tells you where they are in relation to each other.

Another thing: it seems that the knee of a weighted foot is always more bent than that of an unweighted foot. From this I deduce whether the figure is standing still, stepping forward, moving his weight back to avoid being hit, or what. However, this would require some experimentation to verify.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Run, nose, run

Yep, still sick, but went to class. And a brilliant class it was, too - see the entries below. I could have endured being a bit less dead in the head and the muscles, but things turned out better than I anticipated on entering and finding the salle full of free scholars.

Balance was missing today and my elephant was decidedly staggering under the weight of my tower.

I managed a series of crane exercises before class, which is really helpful for maintaining focus and patience during class.

Through the collision point

One major issue covered in class today was the concept of throughness, familiar to all of us since forever, from the viewpoint of Guy's having listened to Mr Stoeppler explaining in a way new to him.

Guy now presented the familiar concept to us as avoiding a situation where the participants in a drill or fight subconsciously identify and mutually agree on a collision point on the basis of their own gaze and the direction of the other's. For both parties, looking at their partner or opponent makes them determine a point on the other's body where collision will occur; and the direction of the other's gaze will tell them where the other person locates the point of collision in return. This is why it's important to gaze into the distance in order not to give away the intended collision point. Also aiming at a point not on the opponent or partner but beyond them confounds their expectation of the collision point.

Collision points are important because the nervous system is wired to flinch away from collisions or at least stop all motion in order to minimise damage from the collision. So if you aim to collide with your opponent's skin, you will stop at the opponent's skin, whereas if you aim to reach for a pint of beer, you will go right through your opponent, provided your technique is anything like right.

(Note: I did not attend Mr Stoeppler's seminar, so all information is second-hand, and I may have misunderstood or misremembered Guy's explanations. Therefore I am solely responsible for any errors and inconsistencies in the explanations above.)

Chained by the horns

According to Guy, he has finally figured out, as a result of Mr Thomas Stoeppler's seminar last weekend, what posta bicorno is for. It's to form a closed kinematic chain for greater stability.

We dealt with closed kinematic chains as systems that are closed against any energy put into the system to disrupt it. (Of course no system is completely watertight in this respect - the online literature on kinematics appears to refer to their level of "openness" as degrees of freedom.) For example, posta longa (especially unarmed) is not a c.k.c. because the position of each hand and arm is supported separately by the contact of the feet with the ground. On the other hand, all the dagger defenses with hands joined together or with the dagger are c.k.c.'s because the fact of joining the hands divorces the system of the hands from the feet: the hands support each other and joining them closes the system against any attempt to break it - the hands are supported even if the feet fail, which is not true of posta longa.

What has this got to do with bicorno? The fact that because in bicorno, the hands are touching each other, making the guard a c.k.c. This makes the point of the sword rock solid for thrusting and allows the flat to withstand much more pressure.

(Note: I didn't get to attend Mr Stoeppler's seminar, unfortunately, so everything here is second-hand information from Guy possibly misunderstood and/or misremembered by me; and this equally applies to all of Guy's insights. So please lay the blame for any inconsistency and weirdness belongs on my shoulders.)

(What makes me a just a bit extra happy is that this fits in nicely with my current favourite theory as to why it's called bicorno - as a reference to a battering ram. Unfortunately I have yet to find a medieval Italian source calling a battering ram a bicorno.)

Further web reading:
Kinematics fundamentials
Kinematic chains

Friday, August 17, 2007

Segno note

The charm of the segno is not in the reading but in the drawing.

Heavy training

How can you tell Friday is coming? Answer: Auri gets sick. But today I braved a runny nose, cough and a sore throat and actually trained.

I was all stiff and tense due to training much too little during the past few weeks (like, um, maybe four times in the last three weeks...). But I did come up with a new pithy statement:

Heaviness is only poor balance and lack of forward movement.

That is, if you're properly balanced so that your weight is supported by your two or four contact points with the ground (feet, or soles+heels); and if you are moving forwards rather than being still or moving towards the ground - then whatever you're holding, pushing etc. is not heavy.

Now I wonder if can come up with a statement about what constitutes stupidity, which is the other thing that plagues my training. Perhaps:

Stupidity is only timidity and lack of logic.

And voila, all four Fiore segno animals/principles are accounted for.

No posting, no motivation

It's easy to track the swings of my motivation to train. When motivated, I post here. When not, I don't.

I've completely misplaced that motivation lately, it seems. We've just moved to a nice, new salle (with loads of space!), I have regular on-call salle duty each Friday which means dragging my ass to the salle at least once a week, the kids are learning to live with my being away from home in the evening... So what gives? No idea. Ilkka's opinion is that I don't train enough. He's probably right - I've been known to ditch any hobby I don't get to do more than twice a week. But although I can't come three nights a week anyway, ever, unless something changes drastically, I could still do other things like footwork and strength etc. training at home, IF I could be bothered to after 14-15 hours of looking after children, cooking, cleaning house and running errands, that is at around 10pm.

I know the solution to this problem is one employed by all men obsessed with their hobbies: get a wife. Alas...